Hullo Mad Readers! 🙂
It’s Day 5 of #marchmadness, the prompt for today was — sound — and considering where I left off yesterday, there was plenty of opportunity to utilise such a prompt. 😀
Unfortunately, I had no idea where to go with the plot; my brain is at a loss… so, I’m eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s prompt to see how I’ll finish this little encounter off and get on with the story. Or if I can switch to say, Loren’s perspective for a moment and just ignore this trio for now, haha!
Will work it out. 🙂
Today’s Wordcount: 1493
Total Wordcount: 7573
(still not on par!)
Cassandra pushed open the heavy wooden door and stepped inside, followed by the two men, and just in time by the sound of it. As soon as they entered the building a sheet of rain descended. The rains had become dangerous these days. Not only did the water actually burn, but there were creatures that were attracted to the smell of the rain and the slime it left behind, and if someone was touched by even a single drop, that person would be taken never to be seen again. Of course there were those who were touched by the water and still lived, forever marked by the splotches on their skin, but being out in the tangles… they would’ve had no chance.
The creatures were once yowies —shy and hairy monkey-men akin to the yeti or bigfoot— but like everything else, they had changed and they certainly weren’t shy any longer; they were braver than ever and quite happy to torment the hairless monkeys they lived alongside.
Henry and Sebastian, though rightly discomforted by the sound the creatures were making, obviously had no idea what the creatures were or how close they were hiding and waiting. She was certain she had seen the glowing red eyes peer at them through the thicket, waiting for them to be touched by the rains… it was merely luck that they had made it into the fire-circle in time.
‘Inside.’ She sniffed, annoyed that she had to enter this wretched place again so soon. She hadn’t lied when she’d said that she had been here before on so-called ‘balloon-head’ business —Loren trusted her above all others and often sent her on assorted duties, just as he had sent her to acquire Harclyffe’s diamond— but she’d need to be careful and warn those that knew her to keep their mouths shut. They might be dumb inbred fools, but even they would know that one such as her wouldn’t simply betray Loren and their goals.
Taking a quick glance around the ‘establishment,’ she noted that parts of the crumbling, rotted roof were caving in, allowing some of the rainwater to dribble down the walls. Disgusting… and reckless. The burning fires outside wouldn’t be enough to deter the yowies once the place was filled to the brim with rain residue.
There were only a few people inside, already heavy in their cups, and the atmosphere was as quiet and dreary as one would expect at a funeral. Not a single face was familiar except for the one behind the makeshift bar, a gaunt face with sunken cheeks and eye sockets so hollow they were as a skull’s —Fergus.
“Well, this is a lively pub,” Sebastian whispered.
“A silent drink would be nice, not so much an awkward drink,” Henry muttered.
“It’s only awkward if you think it’s awkward,” Cassandra replied with forced cheer. Silent, awkward, rowdy. This’ll be the last drink you’ll ever have, so enjoy the bloody thing, she thought to herself as she chirped, “Find a seat; will be back in a moment!”
The floorboards creaked as she sashayed towards the bar, the groaning wood a forlorn cry that pierced the silence. An occasional glance was cast over her as she walked, but none of them held any recognition and the mindless stares were slowly returned to their filthy mugs. Chairs screeched over the floor at her back, telling her that the two louts had taken their places, and she arrived at the bar, careful not to touch the tarnished surface as she squared her shoulders and stood tall.
She spoke cool and commanding, and placed a hand on her hip as Fergus’ bloodshot eyes met hers.
“Oh, it’s you,” he droned in a dull, emotionless voice that was barely audible beneath the rain pounding against what remained of the roof. “Is it time?”
There was no way he could be heard from all the way over near where the two men were sitting, but she glanced over her shoulder anyway before returning her steely gaze to the thin and wiry bartender.
“No, I’m here on other business,” she snapped, motioning over her shoulder at Henry and Sebastian, then placed the cigarette case on the counter, careful to not get any of the counter’s filth on her fingertips. “The ‘house special,’ if you please. Double strength for the fat one, Loren might have a use for the other.”
Fergus’ eyes widened for a split second before reverting to their dull, mindless stare.
“Haven’t heard that in a bit. Guess they ain’t in on it, hey?”
“No, and neither will you or your people if you say one word of it. You do want to be redeemed… don’t you?”
A white smile stretched across Fergus’ face as he grabbed the silver case with gnarled fingers as thin as his frame, then he strode into a closed off room, a small bob in his gait with each elongated step.
Turning back to Henry and Sebastian, she almost felt sorry for them as they cautiously peered around the dilapidated pub, their curiosity radiating from them alongside a distinct, palpable fear. Despite their years, they were as fresh blood to this world, and were more innocent than they realised; they no longer belonged here. It hadn’t even been twenty-four hours since they had emerged from Harclyffe’s broken hall —a hall that was likely repaired by now, and by a man who’d be hunting them that night like as not— and they’d be dead before the sun sunk below the horizon. Harclyffe would kill the pair anyway, she reminded herself. She was just beating him to the punch and taking that diamond before he could reclaim it.
“Drinks’ll be here soon,” she grinned, pulling out a rickety old chair and sitting gingerly on the edge as she ignored the heads turning at the scraping sound.
Henry shuddered. How could she be so cheerful? This place felt like the initiation chamber of a cult. Silent stares and glassy eyes all ‘round as mugs methodically met lips in unnatural synchrony. It wouldn’t surprise him if whatever drink he got given was laced with some sort of hallucinogen designed to make him see the true glory of the eternal aurora and join them, join them all, join them all forever or face eternity in the endless dark.
“This place doesn’t seem… right. Hey, Seb,” he said, forcing a light tone. “Want to stay here in Jonestown or high-tail it?”
Sebastian smirked but didn’t say anything, his eyes roaming the dirty, dusty, derelict room.
“Still unusually silent, I see.”
“Yeah, nah,” was Sebastian’s only response.
“It’s still early,” Cassandra snipped. “You’ll see once night falls.”
“Are we really going to be here for that long?”
“Until the rain stops,” she shrugged.
Resigned to the awkward silence, Henry sat back in the chair and waited for the skeleton behind the counter to bring over whatever served as a drink these days.
Had they really fled Harclyffe? Maybe the clockwork murder was a valid exchange for safety. They were fed, given plenty of decent booze, had no fear of the elements, and were allowed a woman every now and then before she inevitably ‘disappeared.’ Was it really so bad? He thumbed the diamond in his pocket and saw the strange machine activate deep within his mind, its cranks and gears louder than a hundred bikies roaring past, and then watched the image that was forever embedded in his dreams —the gaping mouths screamed in silence as bodies upon bodies writhed in obvious anguish from the flesh-softening poison, their torment extended tenfold in a bubble of created time, and then exploded into a million bloody fragments before being sucked into the machine, their giblets circulating through the glass window in an endless cyclonic whirl as Harclyffe’s bulbous head pulsed with his obscene pleasure at the sight.
The skeleton bobbed over and dumped three wooden jugs on the table, then bobbed back behind the counter without a word.
“Think there’s any cyanide in Skeleton-Bob’s jugs?” Henry asked Sebastian, nudging him with an elbow, desperate for some banter. What the hell was wrong with him? “Earth to Sebby, anyone home in there?”
Sebastian looked at Henry, over to Cassandra, and then back to Henry again.
“You’s’ll think I’m crazy,” he whispered. “But I’ve been hearing a voice all day. It’s muffled. Been trying to make out the words.”
“Great,” Henry sighed. “You’re going crazy and with these drinks, we’re destined to join The Family forevermore.” He raised his jug. “Cheers, buddy. See you on the other side.”
Sebastian grinned and raised his jug, though still held a thoughtful furrow in his brow. Cassandra peered at hers, squinted at the contents, sniffed at it, then raised it with a joyful smile painted across her face.
“No cyanide in mine,” she quipped. “Can’t say the same about yours.” And gulped a giant mouthful.